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Foodies enjoying taste of success

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Liz Loftus of Lizzy's Homemade Jams & Chutneys. "I have a passion for this and sometimes the challenges can make you stronger. When it’s your baby, you fight for it,” she says.

Lifestyle – Judy Murphy meets enterprising women who have turned their homes into hives of production

Back in her student days in Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Liz Loftus was renowned for her cooking ability.

“Liz can make a sauce out of anything,” was a frequent comment from housemates and fellow students.

Liz has now turned this passion into her livelihood, courtesy of Lizzy’s Homemade Jams & Chutneys, which will be on sale during Galway Food Festival, which runs from next Thursday, April 2 to Monday, April 6. Before food took over, the Caherlistrane resident worked for a period with Galway Arts Festival, followed by a stint in the media and twelve years in community development.

Lizzy’s Jams & Chutneys made their first public appearance at the Galway Food Festival two years ago in the ‘Made in Galway’ Food Village, supported by the Galway Enterprise Board.

“I was poked and cajoled by Made in Galway,” Liz recalls. “I barely had a banner.”

She was on maternity leave from her job at the time and when a redundancy offer came up, she decided to change careers.

Liz had already been making jams and chutneys in her spare time as an escape from the pressures of her day job, which involved working with disadvantaged children.

Today, her stylishly-packaged goods are stocked in health shops, specialist outlets and supermarkets in Galway and further afield.

At present, she makes everything in her own HSE-approved kitchen and produces about 200 jars a month. She has tested her recipes over the years and varies what she makes according to the seasons – rhubarb will be in the mix for the Food Festival. Neighbours have been very good, supplying her with apples and blackcurrants, and there’s also lots of wild produce – including garlic.

Sometimes Liz develops recipes to meet demand – she recently started making piccalilli, having been asked to do so by Born Kitchen in the city. Born wanted to add it to their menu and couldn’t source it in Galway.

“I do pickling anyway, so I said I’d give it a go,” she says. Born is happy with her recipe, so she will continue to make it.

Liz was interested in food even as a child. She grew up in Co Clare and recalls that her parents would regularly go to the market in Limerick before it was revamped and became trendy as the Milk Market. Her father bought goods like cabbage plants, while her mother used to purchase doughnuts as a weekend family treat – that was as exotic as life got at the time, recalls Liz with a laugh.

Having taken the leap into the food business, Liz has been determined to make a go of it. She loves selling directly to customers and meeting supermarket managers, and is part of a community of small producers, who share advice and help each other.

Managing the finances is the biggest chore, but it’s a necessary evil, she says.

Sometimes, bigger supermarkets don’t pay suppliers for a couple of months, so cashflow can be an issue.

“But I have a passion for this and sometimes the challenges can make you stronger. When it’s your baby, you fight for it.”

Liz has simple advice for anybody with a food idea, who would like to see if they can make it work as a business.

“Go out and do it. Test the water first, test the product, see if there’s a market for it. Talk to other producers. Then go back and do your one- three- and five-year plan.”

Liz works hard, but is also determined to enjoy life with her daughter, Isabelle Fernie, who is now two-and-a-half. She puts in about 30 hours’ work a week between making the preserves, going on the road to exhibit and sell, and looking after the paperwork.

At the moment, that level suits her, but she has plans to develop further, and hopes to take part in the Food Academy initiative, run by SuperValu with Bord Bia and the Enterprise Board, where small producers compete to win company support and have their stock sold into Musgrave’s Cash and Carry.

Community development was also the path followed by Claire Davey of Baile Mheiriceá, near Clonbur until a few years ago, when she set up her unusual food company, America Village Apothecary. Claire now makes syrups, bitters and tinctures using plants such as gorse, hibiscus, pine and dandelion, among others.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Just the spirit

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Gareth and Michelle McAllister pictured at the old mill in Ahascragh where the new whiskey and gin distillery will be estabished. Photos: Gerry Stronge.

A former grain mill in the village of Ahascragh is being converted into a distillery thanks to Gareth and Michelle McAllister who have big plans to meet growing demand for craft Irish whiskey and gin in the Far East as well as closer to home. They are also developing a visitor centre in the distillery and are currently offering people a chance to invest in their company as DECLAN TIERNEY learns.

A product that will be developed in the East Galway village of Ahascragh will find its way Asia and various other parts of the world following a courageous initiative by a couple who aim to become huge names in the distillery industry.

Given their thirst for the distilling of craft whiskey and gin, Dublin couple Gareth and Michelle McAllister are set to put the tiny village on the international map by transforming an old corn mill into a major employer as well as a tourist attraction as part of a €10 million investment.

Works have already started on giving the old mill, previously an ivy-clad eyesore in the village, a brand-new look and the couple hope to go into full production by the end of next year – ready for the 2022 Christmas market.

Employment has already commenced in the marketing and administration end of the distillery and when it’s in full production, Gareth and Michelle will create around 40 new jobs in the village.

They will be producing two whiskey products and one gin when they’re at full capacity but already they are bottling a single malt under their own product name. This is currently on the market . . . and is proving particularly popular, despite limited availability at the moment.

The distillery is a labour of love for Gareth, a chemical engineer by profession, and Michelle who worked as a psychologist but is now operating the café in Ahascragh that they opened earlier this year to coincide with the launch of the distillery.

Both worked in China for seven years in different roles and while there, they discovered that there was a big demand for Irish-made spirits. They are now determined to explore this particular niche in the market as well as developing outlets across Europe and in the market here at home.

“This has been foremost in our plans and aspirations for some considerable time,” explained Gareth. “Since our time in Asia and Singapore we discovered that Irish spirits were a much sought-after product. As part of my training as a chemical engineer, distilling formed part of this.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Sex education from the mouths of babes

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Relationships and sexuality educator Grace Alice O’Shea.

Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

I remember having ‘the talk’ a year before menstruation as I was about to enter fifth class and my twin sisters were embarking on their final year of national school. Sitting down beside us in the garden while enjoying the endless summer sunshine, my mother revealed the horrifying details about periods, showed us sanitary pads and then issued the very stern advice about staying away from boys as we could get pregnant once we started having them.

I don’t recall any detail about how this could happen and the leap from bleeding every month to carrying a baby seemed enormous, but there were no questions asked. We were mortified to even be discussing it.

If only there had been a book like Sex Educated around. The imagination would certainly not have run as wild.

It is written by relationships and sexuality educator Grace Alice O’Shea on behalf of Sexual Health West, a charity that has been delivering workshops to young people through the West of Ireland Sexuality Education Resource (WISER) for over 30 years.

All information in the book is inspired by questions put by young people in the workshops, where they are encouraged to ask questions openly or write them down anonymously.

“Receiving and answering questions has arguably beenthe most important part of our work. Each year, they have given us a unique and invaluable insight into the minds of young people,” reveals Grace.

“Talking about sex does not encourage young people to rush out and have sex. Talking openly and honestly about sex supports the unlearning of unhelpful and harmful beliefs around sex and shame. It empowers young people to make decisions based on accurate information and compassion, and to advocate for themselves, their bodies, their wellbeing and their relationships.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Country Living

A stout defence of the humble sausage and its coat of ketchup

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

Alas, I’m of an age to remember when such things as ‘shop ham’, tomato ketchup, Chef sauce and flagons of Bulmers (cidona, I hasten to add) were all considered great treats on the few occasions during the year when they arrived in the storage cupboards of the colder rooms in the house . . . kind of DIY fridges that didn’t require any electricity.

A few weeks back, as I was extolling my lifelong love for ketchup and my refusal to ever eat chips without a consistent lathering of the red stuff (vinegar is also another essential) when I was gently chided by a colleague about my rather crass dietary leanings.

She told me that she would never let a container of ketchup inside her sauces receptacle, whether it be a glass bottle (always preferable) or one of those more girthy plastic containers. The basis for her antipathy was, that ketchup when applied to food, tended to wipe out all other tastes – her point being that it really was a case of ‘what you were having with your ketchup’.

Admittedly, I was initially rocked back a bit at being chastised for my love of ketchup and from somewhere – and in keeping with the current mood of the nation – the words of the Garth Brooks anthem, kept filtering into my head of: “I’ve got friends in low places.” At that point, I felt that I dare not mention such things as sausage sandwiches on white bread, greasy streaky rashers, tins of spaghetti or canned fruit.

There’s scarcely a day that I pick up a paper or magazine where I don’t read about some food that we shouldn’t eat anymore or another product that was supposed to be very bad for us but has now been discovered to have enzymes and bacteria that will keep my heart ticking for longer; maintain my brain at its most perceptive; and keep such horrible things as ulcers and dodgy gall bladders out of the pain arena.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

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